How long mediation takes depends on the complexity of finances and whether a couple makes progress in ironing out the terms of the agreement. When they can calmly discuss the issues and work towards an agreement, the process is faster. When there is honest, open communication, the mediation process will move along quickly, but if one party refuses to negotiate terms, mediation may not be the solution.
Complexities arise from the following issues:
- Disagreement over custody of the children
- Disagreement over child support amount
- Responsibility for health care, extracurricular activities, and education expenses for children
- Division of assets including home, apartment, furnishings, investments, etc.
When the couple comes to the mediator with an outline and goals for each of these points of contention, the mediator can help them work out the terms of the agreement in as little as a day. But every situation is different and the spouses must be able to communicate without heated emotions or progress will come to a halt. There may be several sessions with the mediator and, at each one, the couple can review his or her demands. The mediator’s goal is to bring them closer to the middle – towards a decision both parties can live with. The mediator is not there to push one choice or another on the couple; his goal is to help the couple work through the points amicably so both parties are satisfied with the conclusion.
Mediation may occur over several sessions, giving time to work out different areas of the divorce agreement. The more transparent each person is with the other, the faster an agreement can be drawn up. For instance, if both maintain separate bank and investment accounts and voluntarily share that information for a seamless evaluation of assets, they will be able to conclude the division of assets more readily. At times, finances can be the most contentious area to resolve. In cases where one spouse is the owner of the business, that spouse may hide money or take payments in cash. If a forensic accountant is needed, mediation probably is not the most suitable solution for a fair agreement.
This is not to say that the couple need behave as good friends for mediation to work. When choosing to use mediation, their main goal is to reduce costs, avoid trial and minimize the stress involved with divorce litigation. However, the further apart the couple is on decisions, the longer it can take to work them out with a mediator.
How Can You Speed Up the Process?
When the couple can have a conversation that does not involve anger and shouting, they can begin the process at home to prepare for an appointment with a mediator by doing the following:
- Compile all banking and investment statements
- List all valuables i.e. owned cars, jewelry, collectibles, etc.
- If they own a home, have the home appraised
- List expectations for child custody, if applicable
If the couple begins working out some of these points in advance and presents them to the mediator, they are likely to make greater progress at their first session with the mediator.
Alternatively, when relying on the courts to negotiate a divorce settlement, the process is certain to take longer, cost more and be more emotionally charged. Most couples find that however long mediation takes to complete, at the conclusion they will have kept more money in their pockets and will be more likely to communicate amicably after the agreement is signed.